JEV now mandatory for Kunsan Airmen

by 1st Lt. Earon Brown, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Kunsan Air Base

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- Airmen stationed in the Republic of Korea or Japan, as well as those temporarily assigned to specific areas in Pacific Command for 30 days or more, will now be required to receive the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine as of Feb. 1.

Signed into effect by the Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Thomas Travis, the preventive measure mandates that active-duty Airmen be inoculated against the rare, but potentially fatal disease over the next year. The vaccine consists of a two-shot series, spaced one month apart, with a booster dose the following year for those still stationed in areas where the disease is more prevalent.

Vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis is a priority for Pacific Air Forces given its role of power projection in the Pacific. Combat-ready Airmen are the linchpin in PACAF's ability to rapidly respond to crises and must be capable of operating in environments where there are medical threats.

"While the probability of contracting Japanese Encephalitis is low, it isn't zero, which is why it is so important that Airmen get vaccinated," said Col. Tambra "Hawk" Yates, 8th Medical Group commander. "Our Airmen are our greatest asset and this measure is another effort to ensure their health and safety while serving in the Pacific."

The mandate by the Air Force follows a vaccine recommendation made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in November 2013 for travelers aged two months and older spending a month or longer in endemic areas. According to the CDC and World Health Organization, most of Asia is described as endemic areas, including the ROK and Japan.

Japanese Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne virus prevalent in much of the Pacific region. While the threat of infection is less than 1 percent, 50 percent of those diagnosed die from complications as a result of the disease. According to the CDC, there is no specific treatment for JE, making prevention all the more important.

"Vaccines are all about prevention," said Tech. Sgt. Erin Watson, 8 MDG immunizations technician. "That's why you want to get them before you're susceptible or exposed to any disease."

The current JEV has been in use since 2009 with no known reactions besides common vaccine side effects.

"By no means is this vaccine new; it's just a new requirement for all of Korea and Japan," said Watson. "Overall, most people haven't had issues with this vaccine. A little soreness in the injection site is always going to be a possibility, but it's quick, almost painless and shouldn't cause any stress."

Airmen who did not take the vaccine voluntarily prior to Feb. 1 will now show as being due in the Individual Medical Readiness system. Walk-in appointments for the vaccination are available at the 8 MDG immunizations clinic Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 - 4:30 p.m.

"The system is going to show everyone as yellow in the system which means they're due," said Watson. "They have a full 365 days to complete the two-shot series before they're overdue, but doing so as soon as possible is your best bet. Once the series is started, it must be completed within a specific time, with 30 days separating the two doses."

Dependents and other TRICARE beneficiaries living within the area are also encouraged to receive the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine in accordance with the current ACIP recommendations. The recommendation also extends to civilians and dependents traveling or visiting the ROK or Japan for more than 30 days.

Those separating, retiring or preparing for a permanent change of station within the next 90 days may be exempted from the JEV. For more information, contact 8 MDG Immunizations Clinic at 782-5261.

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